Honbike is the latest e-bike manufacturer to make its way to the U.S. and they’re doing it with a design that has already won several awards from its initial release in Japan. However, North America is not getting the same exact Honbike that Japan got. Instead, we get an improved product made specifically for the U.S. market that builds upon the success of the first e-bike, with a better motor, taller seat, and improved features. Anyways, we got our hands on a pre-production unit of the new Honbike our review for it might not be 100% based on what the U.S. is getting if they decide to make some last-minute changes.
This is where the Honbike really shines and I can see why it won so many design awards. At first glance, the bike is very minimalist with just the basics needed for a bike. Basically, it’s got a frame, two wheels, a handlebar, the seat, and pedals. However, upon closer inspection, you can really see the details that make the Honbike so much different from your typical e-bike.
Let’s start with the obvious. Where are the gears and chains that most other bikes have? They are nowhere to be seen here and that’s because the Honbike is the world’s first e-bike that uses a patented single-sided shaft drive system. The entire drive shaft is housed in a sealed tube so you won’t need to worry about it getting dirty, falling apart, or maintenance. Not only that, you don’t have to worry about other things you normally would with a chain system, such as having your clothing getting caught in it, oily messes, or the possibility of the chain coming off. It’s an ingenious design that you don’t immediately notice.
Next up, the Honbike is foldable and thanks to the minimalist design, there’s very little mass making it rather small when folded up. It’s also pretty easy to fold up as well. You just have to pull a lever on the handle to fold that and then a lever on the middle of the frame bar so you can fold that in half. The U.S. version of the bike also has a built-in kickstand for when the bike is folded up. The kickstand also acts as a sort of door that covers where the battery is located.
Speaking of which, the battery is housed in its own compartment and can only be taken out with the use of a key. Once unlocked, it pops right out so you can charge it at your desk instead of plugging a charger into the bike. The battery is good for about 24.8 miles of range depending on the speed and how much electric assist you have set.
An unusual aspect about the Honbike is the seat. It is not like a regular bike seat that slides up in between your crotch. Instead, the seat is more like sitting on a stool where only your butt cheeks are sitting on it. This makes the seat super comfortable, especially on long rides. It’s also nicely cushioned to add to the comfort and is color-matched depending on what color Honbike you choose.
Another unusual design aspect is the handlebar, mainly the handles and the way the brake levers are placed. If you look at the brake levers, they look like they’re on backward or inverted. While it looks weird at first, it actually makes more sense because of the way your hands are shaped which makes them much more comfortable to use. On the subject of brakes, the Honbike has two disc brakes, one front and one back. There is also a brake light on the back fender.
The electric motor for the Honbike surprisingly is on the front wheels and not on the back. This is a very small-sized hub motor that seems to be also sealed to keep debris from entering the housing. What’s also neat about the wheels is the way they are attached to the arms. They look like they’re floating which is really cool looking and also not something you see often.
Lastly, the Honbike does have a digital display that is used to show speed and what level of electric assist you are at. There are 5-levels of electric assist that can be controlled using the buttons on the right of the handlebar. I should point out that there is no throttle control for the Honbike as this e-bike is 100% just for assisting your pedal power.
In terms of specs, the Honbike is relatively competitive with other e-bikes based on speed and range. Speed isn’t quite as fast as some others I’ve tried, but it’s pretty decent at its max speed of 15.5mph. It is supposedly possible to unlock the speed, but Honbike doesn’t recommend it for safety reasons. Max range is 24.8 miles on a full charge and of course, that is based on how much electric assist you have set.
I should mention that because the Honbike has no gears or chain, the drive shaft essentially only offers one speed while pedaling. Different speeds are provided by the electronic assist and the pedals feature more or less weight depending on the amount of assistance. There are five levels of assistance that you can set from the control center.
As stated earlier, there is no throttle so you have to provide some amount of pedal power in order for the electric motor to kick in. The electric motor btw is a 250W motor that only weighs 4.2lbs. Another safety feature is that the motor will cut off if it senses that the bike is tilted more than 30-degrees in either direction, in order to provide more control in these situations.
The Honbike is a different experience from the last e-bike I checked out. The Honbike is strictly a street bike as it has regular 20″ tires made for pavement use. Before we get to the ride, however, I’d like to mention how easy it was to assemble and set up the bike. Everything comes in one box. The Honbike essentially comes as five pieces – the frame with one wheel attached, the rear wheel, the rear fender, the bike seat, and the pedals. Since the bike I had is a pre-production unit, there were no instructions, but it wasn’t hard to figure out how to get it all together and it literally took about 15 minutes or so to get it all done. There is one piece of wiring involved, but that’s for the rear brake light.
Once the bike is set up, you’ll want to charge the battery before installing it on the bike. It should only take about 2-3 hours to charge to full depending on how much charge is already in it. When it is charged, just click the battery into the battery housing and you’ll hear it click into place. It can only be taken out again with the use of the key.
When you do finally take the Honbike for a spin, there will be some small oddities you’ll need to get used to first. Mainly the weird seat and the brake levers. The seat in my opinion, while different, is very comfy and actually a fantastic design. You just rest your butt on it and it feels like you’re just sitting on a padded stool. I prefer this over seats that go between your cheeks and crotch. Second, the brake levers are reversed from how you’re used to on every other bike. Again, after using it for a bit, you’ll find these are much more comfortable and easier to grip, making you wonder why all other bikes aren’t like this.
The ride is also incredibly smooth. The drive shaft mechanism works quite well and functions just like a traditional bike. It only has one gear though when pedaling, but the electric assistance helps with that depending on the level you set it at. Since there’s no throttle to worry about, everything is fairly automatic in terms of when the motors kick in. You don’t even really hear the motors either and the only way to tell they’re on is the burst of speed you get when they come on.
Aside from that, the Honbike is an incredible e-bike that should fit into the lifestyle of anyone who needs a bike for commuting.
The Honbike has a lot going for it that helps set it apart from the sea of other e-bikes being released here. Like I’ve stated in the past, no matter what you’re coming out with, it needs something to help it stand out, and the Honbike definitely has those characteristics. The design of the bike is the biggest eye-catcher. The minimalist design, unique elements like the seat, brake levers, and chainless drive-shaft help elevate it above the competition and it’s no wonder why it has several design awards under its belt.
I’m in love with the design and if there’s anything I would change, it might be a slightly more powerful motor and I wouldn’t mind if the seat could just be a little bit lower so that shorter people or even older children could ride it. Besides that, the Honbike is near perfect and a real joy to commute with.
The Honbike is available now for pre-order on their Indiegogo page with a huge discount for early backers and an estimated ship date of June 2022.
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